The Oetztaler Cycle Marathon stands for a feat of strength over 238 kilometers and 5500 meters of altitude in one day – according to the official data. On the other hand, there are my facts, my specifics as a cyclist. To improve my finisher time, I’m putting my weight on the scales: a higher wattage at the functional threshold (Functional Threshold Power, FTP) and a reduced body weight compared to last year. The fact that the bottom line was that only 7 minutes of time improvement was achieved is explained by a special feature of the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon.
I have déjà vu. It is dark and cold. Next to me are Philipp and Dani and at the same time hundreds and soon thousands of other cyclists. Music is coming out of the boxes on the side of the road. A day full of emotions lies ahead of us. In less than an hour it’s time again: the Oetztal Cycle Marathon starts.
The starting shot was fired. On the descent to Ötz I took it easier than in the past years. The fear of a crash was too great. Last year I witnessed a crash. Often, but not always, it’s the testosterone-loaded drivers who think they have to win the race on the first few kilometres that cause a collision. With a crowded driver field of over 4000 starters, the probability of an accident is simply too high. During the following ascent to the Kühtai the peloton was more crowded and still there was unbelievable silence. Nobody spoke a word. Only the wheezing and panting of the drivers could be heard. Perhaps the reason for the silence was the low percentage of women of almost 5 percent. But wait, I heard an Italian on the phone. The departure from Kühtai is traditionally fast. A serious accident happened there this year. I’m glad I didn’t witness it, because something like that gets very close to me. But wonder? No, it doesn’t surprise me. Too often you experience ruthless behaviour. Ruthless and thoughtless, because a fall happens quickly and the consequences can be fatal. In the lower part of the descent I was unnecessarily cut and even braked by a driver. The road was otherwise clear and the manoeuvre didn’t save the driver a single second. On the contrary! It was only a power demonstration man against woman. But even very timid drivers are dangerous. When I fed on the first cow grate in the upper part, I held myself completely left, since I belong according to experience, despite my relatively small body weight as a woman, to the faster descendants. In front of me there were five other drivers who were heading side-by-side for the more metal grid. The driver in front of me suddenly braked hard just before the cow grate and I also had to brake hard because there was no way to avoid him. Was this possibly the first time this driver was on the road here at Kühtai? Also in the further process there were again and again dangerous situations. Drivers braked strongly for no apparent reason or changed lanes without even looking to the side or rear to estimate the distance to other drivers. Of course there will always be misunderstandings with other riders while cycling and especially in bike races or you will overlook others in the heat of the moment. However without sense and understanding and sometimes visibly overstrained to heat down such a distance, I consider precarious.
The thing about the Brenner
Everyone knows the secret of the Oetztaler Cycle Marathon: never overreach yourself at the Kuehtai and look for a suitable group at Brenner, then there is still enough power left for Jaufenpass and Timmelsjoch. If you don’t heed this, you’ll have to suffer terribly, especially at the last pass. Why is it that every year many drivers do not follow this strategy? The answer is adrenaline and fear of losing time. The Brenner is a special feature of the Ötztal cycling marathon: neither fish nor fowl. It’s too flat for a “real” pass to be able to tackle on its own without slipstreaming, but also too steep to be comfortable in a group. The art or luck is to find a group with the right speed. So much for theory. And this year I got it too. On the Kühtai I had still driven my pace well and a few minutes faster than last year. After the descent through Innsbruck I was at the end of a huge group with which I rolled towards Brenner. Then what we know from group rides happened. Hardly an ascent comes, everyone pushes like stupid, as if there was a mountain sprint to win. Looking at my watts, I decided very soberly not to keep up this crazy pace, only to drive up the Brenner solo shortly afterwards, driven by fear, because there wasn’t a single group left behind me that could have served as a substitute. After a feeling of eternity I saw the groupfrom the beginning in front of me again. It was like in a desert, where one suspects an oasis in the shimmering sand on the horizon, but which one never reaches. I worked my way up to the group meter by meter. When I finally caught up with them, it was clear to me that I had lost not only time but also grains by going it alone. I suspected evil for the last two passes.
United in pain
If I flew up the Jaufenpass the last years, it was a tough story this year. Only the descent kept its smooth flow. At the end, the riders are awaited by a yoke, the Timmelsjoch. I spare the reader here the tale of suffering of the aching body parts. Even if everyone is busy with himself in this section, all drivers are united in suffering. It was written on all faces: hopefully the pain and effort will soon come to an end. And then I made an observation that I still don’t understand. In the upper part of the pass I saw a lady being pushed by her companion. This wasn’t just about finishing the marathon, because we were driving in the front part of the women’s field. It was about the placement. It is incomprehensible to me how one as an obviously ambitious woman – but also as a pushing man – can be carried away to such an action. Here the ambition seems to be far above the sporting self-esteem. The recognition of women as serious cyclists is completely undermined. In the descent from the Timmelsjoch a strong wind blew towards us. Shortly before Sölden I still had a violent laughter attack, when an Italian rider began to telephone unexpectedly in front of me at full speed. So I brought my so far fastest Ötztaler to the finish.
Arriving in Sölden, I was spontaneously taken to the studio for a live broadcast by the organization’s team. After moderating the official weather forecast for the race at the press conference and driver meeting in 2018, I was asked about the conditions during the race as a “weather fairy”.
After the weather conditions in 2018 with wet and cold weather were probably among the toughest, it was almost perfect for the faster drivers in 2019. The start was rain-free with dry roads and cool but cold temperatures. At the same time the humidity in Tyrol was pleasantly low. In the course of the day the values climbed over 20 degrees in the lowlands and even on the passes and downhill runs you didn’t have to freeze at first. Only those who had been on the road a little longer had to cope with thunderstorms and hopefully had to provide for them with suitable clothing. It remains to be noted that there was also some luck in the game or the weather god was on the side of the cyclists, because already on the day after the race there was a cold air break with continuous rain, as well as snowfall in the upper layers.